Remembering and Enduring

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Everyone has their own ideas about this day. I have mixed feelings. I won't argue with the insanity of that day. I was 12, in 7th grade, and in French class that morning when I saw my guidance counselor running down the halls at a full sprint, ducking in her head and asking which of the school's tv's had access to public television. When I saw our tv turn on and start to flip through the channels, and every picture look the same, I got that sinking feeling that something very terrible was happening. Why was that building billowing huge clouds of black smoke, like when you blow bubbles through a straw? The newscaster's voice just kept going on and the whole jist of it was that she didn't have any clue what was going on either. Something about a plane that ran into a building and they couldn't figure out why. Tons of speculation, nothing but silence in our classroom. What, what, what, WHAT IS THAT PLANE DOING? OH MY GOD IT'S FLYING INTO THE SECOND BUILDING THAT LOOKS JUST LIKE IT!!!!! Look, we lived in Charleston, SC, maybe 2 people in the class had ever been to New York City and certainly no one knew what the World Trade Towers were or their significance in life up until that point. And there aren't any buildings in downtown Charleston that are over 15 stories high. We didn't even move, we just sat there for hours, classes weren't changed, they just all turned on the tvs and huddled us into classrooms. I don't remember us talking through it. A few hours later someone thought about lunch, but I just remember all of us crammed into the classroom, watching tv about possible "terrorist attacks" in other places, worrying about other planes, wondering if we had any relatives who were traveling that day, if our parents knew yet, if life was going to change. I remember riding the bus home and going by the National Guard post that's in Mt. Pleasant. They had rolled out huge spirals of barbed wire around the whole building and men and women were standing guard with giant guns. And I was thinking- what are they doing? This building is smaller than a grocery store and of all the places to get hit in Charleston, why would they (whoever "they" are) go through the trouble to go here? Weren't they further north?

It was all anyone could talk about, they were all going madly out of control, things were on lockdown, "national security" was a buzzword, everyone thought they were going to be a target (oh especially the ports in Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, N. Charleston), the bases (Navy, Air Force) were going insane, no one could find their relatives, the body count was a horrid phrase that had no meaning because they couldn't find everyone, people were scared of everything. People look back now and say "oh we came together as Americans" and they play those same 5 Americana country songs and a montage of footage to this music to make you cry. And I did cry. But not until September 12, 2001- where I spent the entire length of breakfast crying, inconsolably, into my Cheerios in the dark, for reasons that were far beyond what my intellect could gather and form into words.

And now I'm 22, sitting on my bed in Clemson, SC writing this to you as a Philosophy and Religion student. I could simply reference a date when trying to explain my choice of major and minor (Global Politics and International Studies). Anyone with half a brain could figure that out why, if that were my reason. My reasons are complex, but much of it has to do with how small people fit into a big picture. How we respond and adapt within large institutions like religion and political systems with events like September 11. Like how I watched in terror as President Bush announced his intentions to invade Iraq a year and a half later- 3 days before we were supposed to go on our 8th grade class trip to Washington, DC. I remember yelling "SERIOUSLY?!" And in my pacifist opinion (which I have now developed further than holding a grudge against the President of America for declaring war on the week of a class trip), I still think that blowing people up or invading them because they might have weapons probably isn't the safest of ideas when you're hoping that country doesn't decide to use them. So yeah, the reactions of many people who just seemed to want to find someone to fight because a terrorist organization did something horrendous, didn't seem reasonable to me. Or logical, if you want to get philosophical about it. It did seem a bit jumpy when former president G. W. Bush took Afghanistan to the mat on September 14, 2001 to go find those terrorists.

I think 9/11 was a horrible, horrible, horrible thing. But I don't feel that living the last 8 years of my life in a state of multiple wars or the last 10 in a state of fear of wars and additional terrorism is the way to live. But in the reaction of a group deciding that it's days work is going to be killing several thousand Americans on or over American soil, this is the world in which we live. And so my studies will ever be shaped through that day and the events that followed in its wake. Religion will never be the same because we still see one religion as the enemy. Philosophy will continue in its quest to make sense out of the life we lead and why we lead it that way. Global politics and international relations are still continually shaped by our thoughts and information about other countries and their citizens and how they relate to Americans.

In case you were wondering: The United States congress is the branch of government that has the authority to formally declare war because they are the group that governs the military's rules. The President of the United States has the ability to use force because he is Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. Congress hasn't issued a formal declaration of war since June 5, 1942 in which it declared war on Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania. The reason the Iraq War is never formally called that is because it isn't technically a war. It's "Operation Iraqi Freedom", then renamed "Operation New Dawn." It is Congressionally-approved military force. That doesn't sound any better. In fact, it sounds worse that all of those people there and our own soldiers have died without the formality of war.

But now I get off my soapbox, go back to my math homework, work on my essay for my New Testament class, and deal with the fact that I also am dating a mechanical engineer in the Navy. We don't talk about war much. And for a minute I'll ask you to think of the repercussions of the terrorist attacks 10 years ago. For the rest of the day, keep thinking about those who died. Then tomorrow go back to living in the post 9/11 world- realize just how different your life is and how differently you think (for better or worse) about the world that surrounds you because of it.

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